Bird Fact Friday – Townsend’s Warbler

From pages 440-442 in The Warbler’s Guide:

Townsend’s Warbler is easily identified by its high-contrast yellow face, which also contains a dark ear patch and yellow undereye arc. These warblers have variably black throats boarded by yellow, and dark streaking. In addition, they have a dark olive-green back and white wing bars. Their dark flight feathers contrast with their yellow bodies. Additionally, Townsend’s Warblers are identified by their white bellies and tails. They also have a distinctive, contrasty facial pattern.

The Townsend Warbler (Setophaga townsendi) perched on a branch. Photo courtesy of the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL. Copyright: Scott Whittle and Tom Stephenson.

This warbler breeds in conifers; during migration, they can use a range of habitats, but are often found in pines whenever available. Their breeding range overlaps with Hermit Warbler’s, and hybrids between the two are found annually. Townsend’s Warblers are typically found in the western part of the United States.

The Warbler GuideThe Warbler Guide
Tom Stephenson & Scott Whittle
Drawings by Catherine Hamilton

Warblers are among the most challenging birds to identify. They exhibit an array of seasonal plumages and have distinctive yet oft-confused calls and songs. The Warbler Guide enables you to quickly identify any of the 56 species of warblers in the United States and Canada. This groundbreaking guide features more than 1,000 stunning color photos, extensive species accounts with multiple viewing angles, and an entirely new system of vocalization analysis that helps you distinguish songs and calls.

The Warbler Guide revolutionizes birdwatching, making warbler identification easier than ever before. For more information, please see the author videos on the Princeton University Press website.

Bird Fact Friday – The Ringed Kingfisher

From page 154 of Wildlife of Ecuador:

The Ringed Kingfisher is one of the largest kingfishers in the world. The head, back, and tail are pale grayish blue; the belly (and chest in males) is rich rust; and a complete white collar encircles the neck. Females have a grayishblue breast band.

Ringed Kingfisher

A female Ringed Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata) perched on a tree. Photo credit: Pablo Cervantes D, Tropical Birding Tours & Capturing Nature Tours

The Ringed Kingfisher’s loud, machine-gun-like call is often the first alert to its presence. It is common and widespread on both sides of the Andes, from lowlands to about 1,500m (4,920ft ), but requires medium-size to large bodies of water. It is often found around fish-farm pools on Andean slopes where rivers are narrower.

Andrés Vásquez Noboa
Photography by Pablo Cervantes Daza
Preview a Chapter

Mainland Ecuador’s spectacular wildlife makes it a magnet for nature tourists, but until now there hasn’t been a go-to, all-in-one guide geared to the general reader. With this handy and accessible guide, visitors now have everything they need to identify and enjoy the majority of birds and animals they are likely to see. Written and illustrated by two of Ecuador’s most experienced nature guides and photographers, this book covers more than 350 birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. It features over 400 stunning color photographs and includes a range map for each species, as well as a brief account of the country’s natural history and biogeography. With its extensive coverage, attractive and easy-to-use layout, beautiful photographs, and nontechnical text, this is an essential guide for anyone who wants to explore the natural wonders of Ecuador.

Bird Fact Friday — The Sword-billed Hummingbird

From page 134 of Wildlife of Ecuador:

The Sword-billed Hummingbird has the longest bill in proportion to its body of any bird on earth. Reaching up to 11cm (4.25in) long, the bill nearly equals the length of its large body. Males are solid green, and females are speckled white and green from throat to belly; both have a brown-bronzy shine on the head.

The Sword-billed Hummingbird

The Sword-billed Hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera) mid-flight. Photo credit: Andres Vasquez, Tropical Birding Tour.

The species has coevolved with long tubular flowers to be their exclusive pollinator; it favors red Datura flowers and Purple Passionflower, or Taxo. Pleasingly, this stunner visits feeders and is fairly common throughout its range, which stretches along both slopes from 2,500m to about 3,400m (8,200–11,150ft). It is present close to small towns and in agricultural areas that grow its favored flowers as ornamentals.

Andrés Vásquez Noboa
Photography by Pablo Cervantes Daza
Preview a Chapter

Mainland Ecuador’s spectacular wildlife makes it a magnet for nature tourists, but until now there hasn’t been a go-to, all-in-one guide geared to the general reader. With this handy and accessible guide, visitors now have everything they need to identify and enjoy the majority of birds and animals they are likely to see. Written and illustrated by two of Ecuador’s most experienced nature guides and photographers, this book covers more than 350 birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. It features over 400 stunning color photographs and includes a range map for each species, as well as a brief account of the country’s natural history and biogeography. With its extensive coverage, attractive and easy-to-use layout, beautiful photographs, and nontechnical text, this is an essential guide for anyone who wants to explore the natural wonders of Ecuador.

Bird Fact Friday — All About the Red-masked Parakeet

From page 112 of Wildlife of Ecuador:

The Red-masked Parakeet is an attractive parakeet that shows a bold red mask with a contrasting white eye-ring. It is overall light olive green, and yellowish under the longish tail; in flight it shows red shoulders. It is resident in the drier lowland forests of the southwest, where common, and locally into the northwestern foothills and the upper subtropics of the far south.

The Red-masked Parakeet

The Red-masked Parakeet (Psittacara erythrogenys) perched on a branch.

It flies in noisy groups that give distinctive nasal calls, and it is known to visit fruit feeders in some locations. This is the main species of the parakeets of San Francisco, California (where introduced and afterward escaped) presented in the film The Wild Parrots of the Telegraph Hill.

Wildlife of Ecuador
Andrés Vásquez Noboa
Photography by Pablo Cervantes Daza
Preview a Chapter

Mainland Ecuador’s spectacular wildlife makes it a magnet for nature tourists, but until now there hasn’t been a go-to, all-in-one guide geared to the general reader. With this handy and accessible guide, visitors now have everything they need to identify and enjoy the majority of birds and animals they are likely to see. Written and illustrated by two of Ecuador’s most experienced nature guides and photographers, this book covers more than 350 birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. It features over 400 stunning color photographs and includes a range map for each species, as well as a brief account of the country’s natural history and biogeography. With its extensive coverage, attractive and easy-to-use layout, beautiful photographs, and nontechnical text, this is an essential guide for anyone who wants to explore the natural wonders of Ecuador.

Bird Fact Friday – A Look at Pied-billed Grebes

From page 74 of Wildlife of Ecuador:

Superficially like a short-tailed duck in general shape and habits, [the Pied-billed Grebe] shows a quite obvious dark band across a pale, cone-shaped bill. The overall coloration is rich or grayish buff-brown, lighter on the flanks and darker on the wings. This grebe is found exclusively on water, inhabiting ponds, lakes, and estuaries in the western lowlands and large lakes in highlands.

The Pied-billed Grebe

The Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)Photo by Sam Woods, Tropical Birding Tours & samwoodsbirding.blogspot.com

It is fairly confiding, rarely flying when disturbed, and rarely comes ashore. Grebes walk with difficulty because their legs are located near the rear end of the body, which works great for swimming and diving but not for walking. They feed on invertebrates and fish, which are caught when diving up to several feet underwater.

Wildlife of Ecuador
Andrés Vásquez Noboa
Photography by Pablo Cervantes Daza
Preview a Chapter

Mainland Ecuador’s spectacular wildlife makes it a magnet for nature tourists, but until now there hasn’t been a go-to, all-in-one guide geared to the general reader. With this handy and accessible guide, visitors now have everything they need to identify and enjoy the majority of birds and animals they are likely to see. Written and illustrated by two of Ecuador’s most experienced nature guides and photographers, this book covers more than 350 birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. It features over 400 stunning color photographs and includes a range map for each species, as well as a brief account of the country’s natural history and biogeography. With its extensive coverage, attractive and easy-to-use layout, beautiful photographs, and nontechnical text, this is an essential guide for anyone who wants to explore the natural wonders of Ecuador.

Bird Fact Friday – The Overlooked Puffbirds

From page 290 of The New Neotropical Companion:

Puffbirds are large-headed, heavy-bodied birds so named for the puffed appearance of their feathers. Though some species are boldly patterned in black and white, most species, particularly those that inhabit shaded understory, are brownish or tan. Their cryptic plumage plus their stationary behavior when perched in the shaded forest understory makes them easy to overlook.

The collared puffbird.

The Collared Puffbird (Bucco capensis) is widespread in Amazonia. Photo by Sean Williams.

Like flycatchers, puffbirds have large bills with prominent rictal bristles (hairlike feathers around the base of the bill) that probably aid in capturing aerial insects. Puffbirds excavate nests in termite mounds or in the ground, depending upon species. Rather little is known about the details of their breeding biology, but they do form strong pair bonds, and many species are commonly observed in pairs.

New Neotropical Companion CoverThe New Neotropical Companion
John Kricher
Chapter One

The New Neotropical Companion is the completely revised and expanded edition of a book that has helped thousands of people to understand the complex ecology and natural history of the most species-rich area on Earth, the American tropics. Featuring stunning color photos throughout, it is a sweeping and cutting-edge account of tropical ecology that includes not only tropical rain forests but also other ecosystems such as cloud forests, rivers, savannas, and mountains. This is the only guide to the American tropics that is all-inclusive, encompassing the entire region’s ecology and the amazing relationships among species rather than focusing just on species identification.

The New Neotropical Companion is a book unlike any other. Here, you will learn how to recognize distinctive ecological patterns of rain forests and other habitats and to interpret how these remarkable ecosystems function—everything is explained in clear and engaging prose free of jargon. You will also be introduced to the region’s astonishing plant and animal life.

Bird Fact Friday – All About Trogons

From pages 269-270 of The New Neotropical Companion:

Trogons are cavity nesters. Some species excavate nest holes in decaying trees; others dig into termite mounds. The Gartered Trogon (Trogon caligatus) utilizes large wasp nests, after carefully removing and consuming the resident wasps. The species also utilizes termite mounds as nests.

The Resplendent Quetzal

Male Resplendent Quetzal, in all its splendor.
Photo by Gina Nichol.

Trogons feed on fruits from palms, cecropias, and many other species, which they take by hovering briefly at the tree, plucking the fruits. They also catch large insects and occasional lizards, swiftly swooping down on them or snatching them in flight. Trogon bills are finely serrated, permitting a tight grip on food items. Arguably the most spectacular member of the trogon family is the Central American Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno; pictured above), which is said to be the inspiration for the legendary phoenix.

New Neotropical Companion CoverThe New Neotropical Companion
John Kricher
Chapter One

The New Neotropical Companion is the completely revised and expanded edition of a book that has helped thousands of people to understand the complex ecology and natural history of the most species-rich area on Earth, the American tropics. Featuring stunning color photos throughout, it is a sweeping and cutting-edge account of tropical ecology that includes not only tropical rain forests but also other ecosystems such as cloud forests, rivers, savannas, and mountains. This is the only guide to the American tropics that is all-inclusive, encompassing the entire region’s ecology and the amazing relationships among species rather than focusing just on species identification.

The New Neotropical Companion is a book unlike any other. Here, you will learn how to recognize distinctive ecological patterns of rain forests and other habitats and to interpret how these remarkable ecosystems function—everything is explained in clear and engaging prose free of jargon. You will also be introduced to the region’s astonishing plant and animal life.

Bird Fact Fridays – Flowerpiercers, the Evolutionary “Cheaters”

From page 173 in The New Neotropical Companion:

Flowerpiercers (a group of 16 bird species related to tanagers), like hummingbirds, consume nectar from flowers . But they “cheat.” Rather than forage within the flower, where they might encounter pollen and thus aid in cross-pollination, they use their delicately upturned and hooked bills to pierce the flower at its base and access the nectar without ever encountering the pollen.

Indigo Flowerpiercer

The Indigo Flowerpiercer (Diglossa indigotica) occurs in cloud forest in western Colombia and northwestern Ecuador. There are 16 flowerpiercer species in South America. Photo by Andrew Whittaker.

Flower traits have been shown to evolve not only to attract certain pollinating species but also to discourage species that are ineffective pollinators or pollen robbers. Adaptations to reduce nectar robbery include adding toxins to the nectar that discourage robbers but not pollinators, flowering at times when nectar robbers are inactive, growing near plants that offer better food sources for nectar robbers, or evolving flowers that are physically difficult for robbers to access.

New Neotropical Companion CoverThe New Neotropical Companion
John Kricher
Chapter One

The New Neotropical Companion is the completely revised and expanded edition of a book that has helped thousands of people to understand the complex ecology and natural history of the most species-rich area on Earth, the American tropics. Featuring stunning color photos throughout, it is a sweeping and cutting-edge account of tropical ecology that includes not only tropical rain forests but also other ecosystems such as cloud forests, rivers, savannas, and mountains. This is the only guide to the American tropics that is all-inclusive, encompassing the entire region’s ecology and the amazing relationships among species rather than focusing just on species identification.

The New Neotropical Companion is a book unlike any other. Here, you will learn how to recognize distinctive ecological patterns of rain forests and other habitats and to interpret how these remarkable ecosystems function—everything is explained in clear and engaging prose free of jargon. You will also be introduced to the region’s astonishing plant and animal life.

PUP Statement on Marra and Santella’s Cat Wars

Marra and SantellaPrinceton University Press takes pride in publishing a diverse, global mix of voices, ideas, and arguments. Cat Wars by Peter P. Marra & Chris Santella addresses a demonstrable threat that free-roaming cats bring to the long-term health of bird and small mammal populations and provides a science-based survey of the subject. It looks at a wide variety of issues and attempts to provide dispassionate, objective analyses. The authors and the Princeton University Press do not support the inhumane treatment of animals.

All books published by Princeton University Press benefit from a rigorous and thorough peer-review process to ensure the highest quality of scholarship and accuracy.  We embrace the highest standards in our publishing, embodied in the work of our authors since 1905.

To learn more about Cat Wars, please visit the book’s PUP catalog page.

To learn about the Press’s mission, read more here.

The making of a field guide in Ecuador: an interview with Nick Athanas and Paul Greenfield

birds of western ecuador athanas jacketIn Birds of Western Ecuador: A Photographic Guide, Nick Athanas and Paul Greenfield provide a practical field guide for birders wanting to explore the region. Filled with bright and beautiful photographs, their extensively researched and photographed volume is a striking guide for the area’s birds, with nearly every species in Western Ecuador included. Recently, both authors agreed to answer some questions about their personal passions for the project.

Why did you want to write Birds of Western Ecuador?

NA: I had been photographing birds in South America for about ten years, and had built up a sizable collection of nice images. I wanted to do something useful with them. Since I am also a birder and a birding tour guide based in Ecuador, a field guide to the region was an obvious project to think about. Iain Campbell, longtime friend and business partner, was working on a photographic guide for Australia, and encouraged us to do it; he put us in contact with Robert Kirk at Princeton University Press.

PG: Ecuador is a huge country in terms of bird species diversity, and with the advent of digital photography, actually capturing nice images of much of its avifauna made doing such a project a viable possibility. When the project was first presented to me by Nick and Iain, I hesitated a bit, only because I had already spent over 20 years working on the painted illustrations of the Birds of Ecuador, but after looking over some of the proposed shots, the idea of presenting a photographic testimonial to the Ecuador’s rich birdlife instantly became very attractive.

What is your target audience?

NA & PG: Our book targets English-speaking birders visiting western Ecuador, either on their own or on an organized tour. We assumed no previous birding experience in the Neotropics. However, the guide will be useful and inspiring for anyone with an interest in the birds of the region, even those with a lot of experience birding the Neotropicals. We excluded photos of some species that are very rare visitors to the region in order make the book smaller and more user-friendly, but it will have everything most visiting birders will see on a typical trip to western Ecuador. The excluded species are also usually mentioned in the text so that readers are aware of them. While not specifically designed for it, the guide also covers the vast majority of birds occurring in southwestern Colombia and northwestern Peru.

So this is a real field guide, and not just a collection of pretty bird photos?

NA & PG: Absolutely, this is a field guide. It was designed to help identify birds. The photos were chosen to show the relevant field marks, the text is extensive and helps to distinguish between similar species, and the range maps are completely new and based on up to date sighting information. Text, species accounts, and maps are all laid out side-by-side and everything is indexed.

Do you believe photographs can be as effective as paintings in a field guide?

NA: With good photos and clear text, I really do believe that. It would have been impossible even just five years ago. With the amazing recent technological advances in digital cameras, it is now possible to get great shots of shy rainforest species in natural light that were impossible before. The better gear also has led to an explosion in interest in wildlife photography, so there are a lot more people out there shooting bird photos. There are now good images available of the vast majority of the world’s bird species. A clear, sharp photo can show a bird’s important field marks at least as well as a good painting, and can even reveal features that other field guides might overlook.

PG: Having experience with both bird photography and painting, I believe that each presents effective, but slightly different strengths for illustrating field guides. Bird painting, with its respective pros and cons, can be quite effective—through hardly noticeable distortions—in presenting field marks from above and below a bird at the same time, as well as creating a sense of wondrous anticipation in the viewer. Bird photography presents the ‘real’ image of the actual species—it brings in the element of reality with ‘real-time’ accuracy when it comes to field-marks, ‘attitude’ and expression.

Were you able to get all the photos you needed?

NA & PG: All but a few. There were two species that we could not find any photos which were of high enough quality to publish: Berlepsh’s Tinamou and Colombian Crake. There were a few species where we could not find photos of one of the sexes. There are also a few of marginal quality, but in general we are extremely happy with the selection of photos. About half the photos are Nick’s, but we also invested a huge amount of time looking for other photos and contacting dozens of talented photographers. In the end, over 70 photographers contributed shots to Birds of Western Ecuador. It includes images of nearly 950 species. To put that in perspective, that’s more bird species than are found in all of the continental US.

This guide only covers half of Ecuador. Why?

NA & PG: We did not think we had the photos to do the entire country, nor did I we think we would be able to get them in the few years we had to write this book. Eastern Ecuador has significantly more species, and many of them are rainforest birds that are extremely hard to find and see, never mind photograph. Western Ecuador was a manageable starting place, and even still it was a far larger project than we anticipated.

Will you write a companion volume?

NA & PG: If this book is well-received, and if PUP is interested, we’d like to write another volume. It could be for eastern Ecuador, or possibly for the whole country. Most of Ecuador’s birds are in the East, so including everything won’t make the book proportionally that much larger. I think that in the years that have passed since we started Birds of Western Ecuador, many more species have been photographed, so that we should be able to obtain nice shots of almost all of Ecuador’s birds by the time a companion volume is finished.

Some people may see all these photos of amazingly colorful birds and be inspired to visit. When is the best time of year?

NA & PG: Come any time! We go out birding any month of the year and always find great birds. June-September are usually the driest months, and January to May are usually the wettest months. A lot of people like to visit the Northwest in the intermediate months of October-November since some rain is good for activity but it usually isn’t too much. January in the Southwest is usually great because the rains are just starting, the birds are singing, but the trees still haven’t leafed out much so the birds are easier to spot and enjoy. But really, if you can only come at a certain time, by all means do so.

Do you have a favorite bird?

NA: I have many! Hard to pick favorites when there are so many amazing choices. One of them, however, is definitely the Velvet-purple Coronet that went on the cover. It’s such a uniquely-colored hummer and its shimmering hues change depending on the angle and the lighting conditions.

PG: I have always said that my favorite bird is the one I am looking at ‘right now’, and I believe that’s really true. I especially get a kick out of remembering the circumstances when I first saw a species, each time I see it again; but how can you not go nuts with tanagers, hummingbirds, trogons, cotingas, antbirds, toucans… well all of them!

Nick Athanas is cofounder of the tour company Tropical Birding. He leads bird tours throughout the Neotropics and has photographed more than 2,500 bird species. Paul J. Greenfield is a longtime resident of Ecuador, where he leads bird tours and is active in bird conservation. He is the coauthor and illustrator of The Birds of Ecuador. Together they have written Birds of Western Ecuador: A Photographic Guide.

Ten weeks, ten states, and a symphony of birdsong

listening to a continent sing kroodsma jacketTake a journey across ten weeks and ten states,  from one coast of America to another, as Donald Kroodsma and his son bike 5,000 miles and record birdsong along the way. In Listening to a Continent Sing: Birdsong by Bicycle from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Kroodsma  provides a written account of this inspirational adventure that is one part personal memoir, one part guided history, one part invitation to pursue your own dreams. The book is beautifully illustrated, incorporating images of the vast terrain and animals the pair encountered on their trip. QR codes link to audio of birdsong throughout.

Click through to enlarge some of the book’s images here.

Follow the wild bees with Thomas D. Seeley

following the wild bees seeleyBee hunting—in which one captures and sumptuously feeds wild bees, and then releases and follows them back to their secret residence—is virtually unknown today, though it was once widely practiced. Thomas D. Seeley, world authority on honey bees, vividly explores the exhilarating pastime in his new book Following the Wild Bees: The Craft and Science of Bee Hunting. A unique meditation on the natural world as well as a how-to guide, the book provides history and science about the craft alongside gorgeous photos and helpful diagrams.

Click through the gallery below to see some of Seeley’s essential tools for bee hunting as well as fascinating photographs captured during the hunt.